Tag: Driving

Getting there

Today has been better. I clipped one pavement, and struggled with that bloody reverse manoeuvre, but other than that it was a lot better.

I woke up this morning. and more or less my first thought was ‘hang on, no matter what vehicle you were in, if  you were too close to an object steering in to it would not have avoided it’. Double bugger. Any vehicle that has front wheel steering and a fixed set of back wheels must turn around the back axle. The front wheels turn the front of the vehicle but the pivot point must be the rear wheel. In other words if you get the back axle clear of an object you can put your steering on full lock and not hit it. So not only did I take out those railings, but I then deluded myself as to why.

The pavement I clipped (OK, mounted, damn you) today was at an offset island. The painted hump in the road was to the right of centre on what would have otherwise been a large open T junction. You were drawn helplessly into steering to the left of the painted island. The instructor warned me to steer straight across it, and that it was a huge temptation to try and steer around the island, but steer straight across it. Even hearing all this, and him saying "don’t steer to the left, don’t steer to the left" as I’m on the island, my hands still moved the wheel over to the left. Damn those treacherous hands! If only there were some way to bring them under control and bend them to my will!

Well, that was a pain. the other instance of lack of control on a cornering exercise was where the road was approaching a roundabout. It opened up into two lanes, there were hash markings on the road and a raised pavement with railings. All of these things are clues that the corner is going to be a bastard for trucks. So I went in a bit wide, pinching some of the next lane, got my front into the island then fixated on getting my arse end through without hitting the pavement. I saw it was getting tight so I swang the cab out further into the next lane. Right idea, but I should have gone in holding that line. As it was if there had been anyone beside me I would have squashed them like the insignificant car-driving bug they were. There wasn’t anyone there, thankfully.

The other source of stress is that reversing exercise. You have to start in one lane, reverse backwards and to the side to line up in a different lane, with a lane or two (road lanes size) separating them. I’m still having to be told what to do. On my last attempt today I started by doing what he said, then went my own way a bit. Instead of starting the turn, straightening up, moving diagonally across the yard, then turning in to the coned bay (which for me involves taking two shunts to straighten up and reverse) I started the turn, then as soon as it was turned did a huge turn in the other direction. This essentially just put the trailer through a huge ‘S’, leaving me straight on to the bay, and most of the yard in which to make a few tiny adjustments as I reversed straight in. I’ll give it another go tomorrow, if I can repeat the manoeuvre I’ve got it sussed. If not, and I have to return to learning the other way, I’ve got a long way to go.

The instructor keeps bulling me up, saying how I’m off a really good standard, I stand a really good chance of passing and not to beat myself up over little mistakes. If I miss a gear don’t flap, just try again, find the gear and move on. He keeps telling me that I have no reference by which to judge my performance but he’s seen lots of people, and I’m among the better ones.

At first I found this encouraging. Today, as I was going for my third attempt at the reverse manoeuvre, I couldn’t help but be a tad irritated by it. I still don’t know what I’m doing, so it is pointless saying I’m doing well.

And now I have another bleeding headache. I think it’s to do with my sini (sinuses, according to some). It’s weird but over the last six months I seem to be getting them all the time. On the one hand I want to get it sorted out ( I don’t want a head cold putting me through the amount of pain I was in with that last bad cold) but A, the doctors never treat me when I do go, and B, what if it affects my eligibility to drive trucks? That would be too ironic. It seems to always be in my right temple, and as it gets worse it feels like the pain is coming from my right eye as well. It could be as simple as a malignant brain tumour, or a headache. I might get my eyes tested again, I am at the age when eyesight starts to go. No, I’ve just thought; I was two days with hardly any light and still in incredible pain.

If my brain doesn’t explode within the next few weeks, here is a possible destination for our holiday :   http://www.directholidayhomes.co.uk/sprop_ref_938.html

Cheap, in the sticks and not on a ‘holiday camp’, I googled one near Loch Lomond and the satellite view looked like a POW camp. Row upon row of caravans, about four hundred in regimented rows. The thought of a possible eight hundred rampaging kids is enough to make me never go on holiday again.

Kids should have kennels so the parents could rejoin the human race for a fortnight. Hmmm, business opportunity there. What is the number for those Dragons Den tossers? On second thoughts, if you are rich enough to afford it they already have institutes where you can absolve yourself of the onerous task of parenthood; boarding schools. Buggery. (Apt as that is part of the curriculum.)

Right, off to try and get better, poorly Bucky again,




Spoke too soon. All going swimmingly, quietly competent, HAH!

I’ve changed my mind. I’m taking to it like a duck to ballet. I thought I was doing alright, not killed anyone, not too nervous, seemed like all was spiffy, just one lesson and all.

Turns out I was in the ‘unconsciously incompetent’ phase; where I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I was wondering how I was supposed to judge the tighter corners when as you turn into them, the trailer blocks your view in one mirror, and the other is pointing at nothing in particular. Wasn’t overly concerned as I seemed to be doing it anyway. Then we came to an island today. Obviously you are all aquiver with the amount of things you are trying to do at once in that situation. You have to line the truck up, bring your speed down, select the appropriate gear, try to keep moving, then leap into any gap in the traffic with all sixty foot of wagon.

I was doing all of the above, spotted a gap and went for it. The instructor said "you’re too tight on the left." I looked in my mirror and sure enough I had started steering too soon and my trailer was heading for the pavement and there were railings on the edge. I acted instinctively, which is to steer the front end in, around the corner. This would have put the arse end out and clear in a car or rigid truck. Not so in an artic. I smacked the trailer straight into the railings and dragged along them! Bollocks!

We had to stop and check that I’d not made the trailer un-roadworthy (it was just a tad scuffed). If that had have been a car or a pedestrian, well, there probably wouldn’t have been a lot down for them.

So then I started to understand what he meant about steering out until your rear axle is clear, then start steering in, keeping an eye on the wide angle mirrors, and chase the cab along the line of the pavement.

So I’ve made the leap to ‘consciously incompetent’, I now know how much I don’t know.

At this rate I’m on schedule. The next level is ‘consciously competent’ where I have to think about every action but then get it right, crack that tomorrow, then I just have ‘unconsciously competent’ where I instinctively do the right thing. Polish that on Thursday, then walk my test on Friday!

Easy when you think about it.

Those who don’t want to know the result of Friday’s test, bury your head in your hands now.

After yesterday going so well (apart from the reverse, which is a nightmare) I really thought I was going to sail through this, maybe even pass first time. Now I’m back to my default position; that I just keep trying until I do pass. Big come down.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes. If I’ve taken on board the things I was doing wrong today, and sussed how to correct them, there is hope. Apart from mounting a few pavements (each incidence a test fail), trying to demolish that barrier (big fail) and not being very good at the reverse procedure, all I have to worry about is preparation and planning.

Those bloody yellow chequered boxes! Fine in a car, just don’t move into one unless you can move through it. Not such an easy decision when you are in a sixty foot vehicle. Especially when it is before some lights, and possibly hidden by stopped traffic. The lights change you move off, traffic shunts up and stops again just as you are driving into a box you hadn’t noticed. Or you pull up in front of some lights and there is a side street thirty foot back from them, you have just blocked it. Preparation and planning prevent piss poor performance, as we used to say in the army. But there is only experience can arm you sufficiently to prepare. As Sah Bum Nim says at Taekwondo "They say practise makes perfect, it doesn’t. Perfect practise makes perfect!"

Soldier on. It’s still not as much of change as from Micra to rigid. That really was horrible. This is bad, but it does feel like it’s just a matter of applying what I am learning, and polishing skills I already have.

I’m a tad miffed tonight, see what tomorrow brings.



Back to driver training

Well, after all the excitement of the wedding I’m back to the day to day stuff. I went out for my first lesson in an artic yesterday. I did that one drive up and down a straight road before, but yesterday was the biggy. Forty four foot trailer, dirty great DAF unit. Bloody huge.

He told me to drive it up the big straight road I went to on my assessment, not a problem, do a U-turn at the top, fine and dandy, drive back, easy peasy, take the next left onto the main road, DO WHAT?

And that was my warm up done. One tootle up and down a quiet road, then out into the real world in the best part of sixty foot of truck!

Stunningly, it wasn’t so bad. A lot better than my first two tests in a rigid. That was thirty two hours of driving and I was still rigid with fear. From the offset (he says, deliberately refraining from using that hideous Americanism ‘ from the get-go’. Damn their pervasive media and bastardisation of our language. "This is the language of Shakespear, keats, the bible" to loosely quote Higgins from "My fair lady" -though not, as I recall from the book Pygmalion.)

Meanwhile, back at the Buck-cave, I was talking about my driving. From the offset…, I was quietly competent. As the instructor said, "now you know you could steal an artic. You might clip a few pavements, but you could drive it away." You can tell we are not far from Liverpool!

I had issues with the reversing into a bay exercise, but after I’d done it he explained that they’ve set their course up shorter and narrower than at the test centre, so if you can crack it in their yard you can piss it at the centre. I like the attitude. As the Russian army are reported to say, "Train hard, fight easy."

Right, time is slipping away, it’s time to don my fat suit, crack open a Yorkie bar and slip my Sun newspaper in my bum cleavage. Let’s go to work.

By the way, when I’d finished yesterday and got back into the mighty Micra I burst out laughing. It was like getting into a toy car! Dinky little steering wheel, biddy gear stick, titchy car.

Time to terrify some more car drivers.